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PAL Questions: 1 - Garden Tools:
Both my front and back gardens have become covered in moss and/or liverwort. It has intermingled with groundcovers such as sweet woodruff and blue star creeper. I have dug up the liverwort in the past but it comes back. Any suggestions towards eradicating it would be greatly appreciated.
It would be important to distinguish among mosses, lichens, and liverworts. Mosses and lichens are not harmful to garden plants. One species of liverwort is known to be a bit of a pest, mainly in greenhouse-grown plants. A first step would be to bring samples to a Master Gardener Clinic for identification. See the following on moss and lichen in gardens:
- Oregon State University bryophytes page
- Oregon State University Extension page on moss, lichen, and algae in the garden
There are researchers at Oregon State University who have done work on the species which is prevalent in greenhouses, Marchantia polymorpha, but the following information may not be relevant if that is not what you have growing in your garden. The first thing to do--if this is indeed the liverwort you are seeing--is to make sure you are not providing the ideal conditions for liverwort growth. Note that high nitrogen and phosphorus levels encourage growth: if you use fertilizer, check the levels of these nutrients. Avoid quick-release synthetic fertilizer. Below is information on methods of greenhouse (not garden) control of liverwort, from the OSU website:
"Before talking about how to kill liverworts, let's talk about conditions in which liverworts thrive. Liverworts grow vigorously in conditions with high humidity, high nutrient levels (especially nitrogen and phosphorus), and high soil moisture. In an environment that has any of these 3 conditions, it will be difficult to control liverworts (even when using herbicides). In order to effectively control this weed, you must make growing conditions for the liverworts as difficult as possible. To do this, you should attempt to create an environment where the ambient air is dry, the surface of the container is dry (as dry as possible), and nutrients are not available on the container surface."
The link above discusses postemergence control, but bear in mind that if something like acetic acid is used on liverwort growing on your plants it will affect the plants as well.
The Royal Horticultural Society says that liverwort will not harm plants (except by causing competition for small plants) but its presence indicates compacted, acidic, and/or bare soil.
The only time I have encountered liverwort is when transplanting nursery-purchased plants. With these, I physically remove the liverwort from the pot before planting into the garden. I wonder if your soil drains poorly, gets too much water, and/or too much fertilizer. I hope the information above will give you some ideas. Again, I recommend getting a conclusive identification before proceeding.
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January 13 2017 10:35:53